by Charlie N. Holmberg
Rhode Island, 1846. Estranged from his family, writer Merritt Fernsby is surprised when he inherits a remote estate in the Narragansett Bay. Though the property has been uninhabited for more than a century, Merritt is ready to call it home—until he realizes he has no choice. With its doors slamming shut and locking behind him, Whimbrel House is not about to let Merritt leave. Ever.
Hulda Larkin of the Boston Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms has been trained in taming such structures in order to preserve their historical and magical significance. She understands the dangers of bespelled homes given to tantrums. She advises that it’s in Merritt’s best interest to make Whimbrel House their ally. To do that, she’ll need to move in, too.
Prepared as she is with augury, a set of magic tools, and a new staff trained in the uncanny, Hulda’s work still proves unexpectedly difficult. She and Merritt grow closer as the investigation progresses, but the house’s secrets run deeper than they anticipated. And the sentient walls aren’t their only concern—something outside is coming for the enchantments of Whimbrel House, and it could be more dangerous than what rattles within.
What I Liked:
-It was fun to read a book that had a writer as the main character. There were some writer-y things Merritt did that made me smile.
-I liked the found family vibes.
-Owein is great.
What I Struggled With:
-The ‘dark’ magic in Keeper of Enchanted Rooms is creepy. It unsettled me, though not enough to make me stop reading. Basically, the villain is able to shrink people into miniature mummies, but they’re still alive. I know that it doesn’t sound that scary the way I wrote it, but trust me. It’s creepy and unsettling.
-While I didn’t dislike Hulda, I never connected to her like I did the other characters.
-If you’re cautious about the magic you read, Keeper of Enchanted Rooms might not be for you. There are a bunch of types of magic in the novel, which include necromancy and divination. SPOILER: There is also a ghost character that possesses a house.
Keeper of Enchanted Rooms is a “cozy” historical fantasy. A good chunk of the novel is about the characters’ adventures and mishaps while they deal with a magical house and their growing friendships. But there is a looming danger in the background, which comes into play later in the novel and at the climax.
Cautions: seven blasphemy; seven instances of swearing; nine instances of a swear word used for its original meaning; light romance; one kiss; rooms are magically mashed together during the night so that two characters wake up in the same bed; a few nondescriptive references to a character having slept with his sweetheart many years ago; see ‘Other’ for magic-related comments
*it’s been a little since I finished Keeper of Enchanted Rooms, so I may have forgotten a caution